Bridge to Sweden

Newsletter no 33
September 2013


Buildings in Dala-Floda, Dalarna - 200 to 300 years old

Photo: Marie Louise Bratt



Summer is coming to an end here in Sweden, you can feel it in the clear air, which already smells wonderfully different from the summer air. If you live in North America, you might recognize this... Perhaps with autumn you will also be ready to return to the search for your ancestors. If you live in Australia or in New Zealand, of course, spring is approaching...

Perhaps you spent much of last winter and spring searching for your Swedish grandfather or grandmother, who was born in Sweden. You might know his or her name (at least the one used in Canada or in Australia) and date of birth, but now you want more. You are even starting to think about maybe finding out where your grandma or grandpa lived, if there were  sisters and brothers, and living relatives in Sweden.

If you think you might travel to Sweden next spring or summer, don't wait with starting your research. It can take time to find out where your ancestor came from and especially to find those living relatives and to contact them. I'll be happy to help you to get started, or even to do the whole job for you!


What is in this newsletter?

1. Let's start to talk about Dalarna, one of my absolutly favorite provinces (landskap) in Sweden. Many emigrated from there during the 1800s, when crop failure caused great poverty.

2. Emigration to European countries: Yes, not every emigrant went to North America, or to Australia or New Zealand. Many stayed in Europe - and that is what I'll write about.



Beautiful Dalarna
... meaning "the valleys", Dalecarlia in English. Yes, there are valleys, many of them, as well as wide rivers, lakes and mountains. Dalarna is the name of the province (landskap), but now even the county (län) is called Dalarna. Not too long ago the name was Kopparbergs län, which is why, in older records, you need to look for that name when you research your family from Dalarna.

The people of Dalarna value their heritage. Old buildings are given much care and have been preserved for centuries. Here you can find beautiful log houses from the 17th and 18th centuries. There are also fäbodar, groups of houses located in the mountainous parts of Dalarna, where young women guard cows and goats who graze there during the summer months. Perhaps your great grandmother cared for animals while staying in these small houses. Life in the fäbod was filled with work (taking care of the animals, making cheese from their milk) but also of music! These young women sang beautiful songs in order to call the animals back home in the evenings. Simple instruments were developed during many centuries - one of them is called näverlur. Enjoy some typical music, while watching one of many beautiful churches from this area.

The naming customs are quite different in Dalarna as compared to the rest of Sweden. Each farm has a name, which is usually true in other parts of Sweden as well, but in Dalarna that name is also part of the name of those people who live on the farm. So Kers Erik refers to Erik who lives on the farm named Kers. More about that here. 

Before looking at the more important towns in Dalarna you need some maps. Just click on this link,
enter the name of the town, e.g. Mora, and there is the town in front of you. Try "flygfoto" and you get an arial view.

Here are a few of the most wellknown towns in Dalarna:

is a small town located next to Lake Siljan. This is where the beautiful floor clocks called Moraklocka come from. Actually these clocks were made all over Dalarna, but got their name from the town named Mora. Even more interesting might be, at least if you like sports, Vasaloppet, the Vasa race, 90 kilometers of cross country skiing through Dalarna and ending in Mora. What could be better! Almost 3000 people emigrated from Mora during the late 1800s. Most of them went to North America, mostly to Minnesota and other midwestern states.

Våmhus is also located on Lake Siljan. There is a long history of making beautiful jewelry out of hair in this area. The jewelry was first made from horsehair, but later on from human hair. Women from Våmhus traveled long distances in order to sell this jewelry, even to countries quite far away. Around 1000 people emigrated from this small area, to Chicago, Minnesota, Nebraska and others.

In Våmhus, and in Orsa, a Baptist movement started already in the 1860s. It spread along the Siljan shore, among the farm communities. Because of the lack of support for religions other than the Lutheran one, many emigrated.

Leksand - Here is Släktforskarnas Hus where you can do your research during your trip to Dalarna and find out all you ever wanted to know about your family from this province. Write to them at Many emigrated from Leksand to Colorado, California and Washington State. 

Rättvik - many left for Isanti county in Minnesota, and here is a list with some of them.  Also a summary of Karl Nelson's work about the emigration from Rättvik to Isanti county.

Carl Larsson is one of the most loved painter in Sweden. He lived in Sundborn, Dalarna. Would you like to see some of his paintings? It will also give you an idea of how people lived in the late 1800s (at least the wealthier ones).

Falun, the ancient mining city - your great grandfather might have worked in this huge copper mine. It is believed that it was started in the 800s, and was closed in 1992.  These days concerts are held in the mine.

You might also be interested in this young woman, maybe not from Dalarna, but rather typical of Swedish emigrant women. She left Sweden on her own, managed to find work in America, worked hard, married, had children - and remained in the new country.

I almost forgot to tell you about the Dalahäst, the small colorful wooden horse, once a child's toy, which has become a souvenir loved by  tourists who visit Sweden. Every Swede has one at home, and many, many Americans of Swedish descent have dalahästar also.



Emigration within Europe
Going to North America was popular, of course, but many could not afford the trip, or simply did not want to travel that far. Or perhaps a young person started the trip to that faraway country, but something happened on the way, so plans changed. 

Many boarded a ship across the water, from Skåne to Denmark, or crossed the mountains from Värmland to Norway. Or perhaps took the train to Germany, to find work. Or boarded a ship in Göteborg for Hull, in Great Britain, planning to go on from there after a while, but decided that this was far enough from home.

Norway (Norge): Between 1814 and1905 Sweden and Norway were united, in Svensk-Norska Unionen. This meant that any move between the two countries really was just a move within the union. The church records usually recorded this move in the husförhörslängd (household examination record) and the flyttningslängd (moving record). Moves between the countries continued even after the dissolution of the union. Many moved to Norway, and then continued on, usually to North America, immediately or after some time. You can read about the emigration from Norway here.

Denmark (Danmark) was also a destination for many Swedes, especially for those who lived in the southern provinces of Sweden. Many young people found work in Denmark, stayed for a while and then returned home.  Some went to Copenhagen and then emigrated from there,  to North America, to Australia and other destinations. Then, of course, everyone in Skåne, Blekinge and Halland comes from Danish families, since those provinces belonged to Denmark until 1658!

Great Britain (Storbrittanien): Most emigration occurred from Göteborg (Gothenburg), by ships to Hull on England's east coast. The journey then continued by train to Liverpool, where huge steam ships made stops from Germany or other countries to North America, Australia and New Zealand. There was often some wait involved, especially in Liverpool, which made it possible to change plans. So the emigration was sometimes shortened and the emigrant remained in Great Britain. Perhaps you can find your ancestor in the UK census, unless, of course, the family emigrated later on, to Australia or Canada maybe. 

Germany (Tyskland): There was considerable emigration from Sweden to Germany. Many returned home after some years, others traveled to Hamburg or other ports and emigrated from there. If you suspect that this was the case for your ancestor, you might want to check out the website with emigrants from Hamburg,  covering most records for the period between 1850 and 1934. The records are not published on this website however, so you have to go to paid sites. Many other records were destroyed, mostly during the wars.

I look forward to hearing from you, as you settle in at your desk, or in your comfortable chair, with your computer, starting your search for your Swedish ancestors. Remember to spend a while with your older relatives, and even with the younger ones, and start your research there. It's often amazing what you might find out that way about those Swedes who left their homes a long time ago. Feel free to send me the information you collect - I might be able to give you some hints as to how to proceed from there. Your first inquiry is at no cost!

Please let me know if you no longer want to receive this newsletter. If you believe that your sister, cousin, aunt, neighbor or son would like to get it, just forward it to them, and if they wish, they can also subscribe.

Jag önskar er en mycket fin höst! I wish you a very nice autumn! And I wish you a fine spring also (this is for those of you who live in Australia and in New Zealand)!